Knowsley Older People's Voice

Bedroom Tax

yate_bedsit_rent4[1]‘Bedroom Tax’ is a phrase now commonly used to describe part of the coalition government’s reform of welfare benefits. In essence those people who receive benefits and have a spare bedroom could see their benefits cut.

KOPV would like to reassure older people that these changes will only be applied to people of working age and that pensioners will not be affected. However, discount many older people see the headline stories and worry that it might apply to them. There is also the issue of mixed-age households, sildenafil where one partner is above working age but the other is not. Mixed-age couples are exempt from the plans as it is introduced in April 2013. However, it is possible that the exemption for mixed-age couples may cease for new claimants after October 2013. 

Here KOPV provides some further information about ‘Bedroom Tax’.

The coalition government sees the introduction of ‘Bedroom tax’ as a means of trying to deal with two issues.

 

Under occupancy

The government says that there is a chronic shortage of available housing in the UK. This is particularly so of family-sized homes with perhaps 3 or more bedrooms. One of the reasons for a lack of homes suitable for families is that properties continue to be occupied by older people who live alone or as couples. In many cases, older occupiers have raised families who have now left to start families of their own. Whilst some older people take the opportunity to down-size, many more prefer to remain where they are in the original family home, surrounded by the memories and possessions that they continue to enjoy. Where there are individuals or couples living in family-sized houses with one or more bedrooms unused (for sleeping) this is termed under-occupancy.

Many observers have pointed out that owner occupiers have every right to live in the property of their choosing, even if that property is a little larger than an individual or couple really need. However, the issue becomes a little more complex where the house is rented from a local authority, housing association, or private landlord. Landlords may have waiting lists for their housing stock, with particular demand likely to be from families for family-sized dwellings. In such circumstances it is easy to see why landlords would want to encourage those individuals or couples who are under-occupying a family home to move on to something smaller, and maybe cheaper. The issue becomes even more contentious where an occupier is claiming Housing Benefit to meet the cost of some or all of their rent.

 

Welfare Reforms

Under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, a number of different existing benefits, including Housing Benefit, will be replaced by a new Universal Credit. Within the new scheme, the amount of Housing Benefit that people will be paid will be reduced if they are considered to be under-occupying a property that they rent. The measure of whether someone is under-occupying is based on the number of bedrooms at the property, and this is why these measures have become known as a ‘bedroom tax’. The system allows for one bedroom for each person (or couple) living at the property, but with the following exceptions:

 

  • Children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share
  • Children under 10 expected to share regardless of gender
  • A disabled tenant or partner who needs to have non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom

 

Benefits therefore will only be paid at the level according to the number of bedrooms each household is entitled to. If this is insufficient to meet the rent for the property, occupiers will be expected to make up the difference themselves. If they are unable to do this they may need to consider a move to a smaller property. One of the criticisms levelled at these new rules is that there is a shortage of this type of smaller accommodation.

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